First day at a new school, in a new city, first day at any Elementary school, period. There’s a first time for everything. Watch the video below, and you’ll see what I mean…
I may have a canary over what to make the kids for lunch, may complain over the size of my kitchen and ass, but when the big stuff happens, the shit that actually matters, I reel it in and deal. I’m not a mess, phoning Phil, helpless, pleading to him for answers. “But what should I do?!” No. None of it. I amaze myself at how calm I am when the truly frightening things in life happen.
Driving myself to the hospital in labor, giving birth to twins by myself, ten weeks early, and there I am, calm as ever, asking the nurse for a room the way one might ask “How long for a pedicure?”
Lucas’s emergency brain surgery. The most scared I’ve ever been in my entire life. Full of fear, but calm and decisive. You have my consent. QVC was on the television as the doctors attempted to stick a needle into his brain.
Phil suddenly going into third degree heart block, nurses crying to me about MY husband’s health, Phil having to get heart surgery, having to wear a man bra vest, being warned by the doctor that he mustn’t lift anything over ten pounds. And my response? “Guess masturbating is out.”
It’s not that I’m calm, or maybe it is. What it is, is this. In any situation that really matters, I immediately know what’s in my control. I don’t yell at people or try to teach them a lesson. I don’t raise my voice. I don’t do anything to further aggravate a situation. I’m in someone else’s hands just then. I do as much as I can, keep everyone around me as calm as possible, and I handle what is in my power to handle. I never look for fault or blame, not when it actually matters. I don’t know why. It’s just the way I’m built. I hope my children get this gene.
As the bus that should have contained my daughter drove away, I clicked through my phone to an email from the school Principal, scrolled to his email signature and tapped on the number. I got an answering machine. I left an urgent message. I texted some friends in the neighborhood, hoping they’d get the word out, perhaps Abigail was on their children’s bus. I didn’t call Phil. What could he do? Call the school, like me. I called the school again. This time, someone answered. I explained the situation, that my son arrived home safe and sound WITHOUT HIS TWIN SISTER Abigail. As you can imagine, the office was panicked. They didn’t know where she was either. “Please hold while we call transportation.”
While on hold, I ushered Lucas inside. I’d already set out plates with hummus, cut up veggies, and a handful of tortilla scoops, cups of milk. “Have your snack, while I make a few calls outside.” I wanted to wait outside in case another bus circled ’round. “Mrs. Beer?” they asked over the phone. I wasn’t about to correct them with “Klein,” and instead said, “Yes, yes, I’m still holding.” They found her. I was sure that’s what they’d say next. But they didn’t.
“Okay, just making sure you’re still there. Please hold.” They didn’t know where she was. There was nothing more I could do. I paced outside our home, on the watch for approaching cars or busses. There weren’t any.
Lucas came outside. “Mama, I forgot where you went.” He wanted a hug. I think he was scared. In the morning, we drove them to school. It being their first day, we wanted to meet the other parents, send them off in that traditional “make more of these moments” way. We’ve separated Lucas and Abigail since early early pre-school days, in the “three’s,” arranging for them to be in different classrooms for the good of their independence and personal growth. Being in different classes, Lucas didn’t know they were supposed to be on the same bus. It just hadn’t occurred to him. Besides it’s a BIG BUS, so for all he knew, she was ushered into the bus earlier, sitting somewhere toward the middle.
Still on hold, twenty minutes later, I stepped inside, hearing my land line ring. Mind you, I don’t even know the phone number. It was Carol, my Dad’s wife, calling to speak to the kids, wanting to know how her grandchildren liked their first day of school. After telling her the story, confirming with her that Abigail did absolutely have a tag attached to her backpack, listing her address, bus number, home phone and a list of FIVE emergency phone numbers, I warned her, “Don’t talk to Phil, he’ll only feel helpless and freak out.” Which is exactly how I felt, sure, but I knew what was in my actual control. I went back outside, still on hold with the school.
An empty bus showed up at my door. Not Abigail’s bus, but another one, with the driver explaining that they’d put her on the wrong bus. I can only assume he read the tag on her backpack, or that he asked her her address (we’ve been having the kids memorize it, even though it’s so new). When he opened the door to let her out, there were no tears from either of us.
I didn’t cling onto her with dear life, didn’t frisk her body for wounds or pet her hair and hold her close. I slapped her five and asked her how her first day of kindergarten was. To which she responded with a huge smile, saying, “It was great.”
When the school’s secretary returned to the line, panic still in her voice, I assured her that Abigail was now home safe, which she then repeated to whomever was within earshot. The hunt was called off. The principal phoned me moments later, apologizing profusely. He said the words, and he was heartfelt, of course. But I assured him that it was okay, that all that mattered was that she was safe and that it didn’t happen again, to her or to any other child. He corrected me, that it was appalling, unacceptable, that it would most definitely not happen again. And that was enough for me. Of course when I did tell Phil, once he was home, at the dinner table, he was outraged. On the phone again with the sweet principal. And then, he too, was finally over it. Mostly. When he saw this video I took, he got all riled up again. We’re just built differently. Yin, yang.